Top 10 Best & Worst Downton Abbey Couples
VOICE OVER: Phoebe de Jeu
WRITTEN BY: Nick Spake
It was the most romantic show on television… well, most of the time. Welcome to MsMojo and today we'll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Downton Abbey Couples (5 Best & 5 Worst).
For this list, we're taking a look at 5 couples on this period drama that made our hearts swoon and 5 we'd like to divorce from our memories. Since we'll be discussing the fates of their couples, a spoiler alert is in order.
It was the most romantic show on television… well, most of the time. Welcome to MsMojo and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Downton Abbey Couples (5 Best & 5 Worst).
For this list, we’re taking a look at 5 couples on this period drama that made our hearts swoon and 5 we’d like to divorce from our memories. Since we’ll be discussing the fates of their couples, a spoiler alert is in order.
#5: WORST: Tom Branson & Edna Braithwaite
When Sybil tragically passed away, it was hard to imagine Tom with anyone else. So, from the second general maid Edna laid eyes on the family’s former chauffeur, we were ready to dislike her intensely. While Tom is still visibly grieving, Edna refuses to take no for an answer and straight-up stalks this vulnerable widow. Once she seemingly schemes her way into Tom’s bed, Edna tries forcing him into marriage with an alleged pregnancy, although Mrs. Hughes sees right through the manipulative little witch. It doesn’t help that Edna has little respect for Tom, claiming that Sybil could’ve done better. Edna even makes him feel guilty for moving up in the world, even though that’s exactly what she’s trying to do by blackmailing Tom.
#5: BEST: Robert & Cora Crawley
It may be a place of tradition, but Downton Abbey experiences numerous changes as the years go by. Even as the winds of change blow through the halls, Robert and Cora remain a constant. Robert’s social status and Cora’s dowry largely brought them together, but they’d go on to develop one of the show’s most affectionate marriages and dedicated partnerships. Granted, they’ve experienced relationship hurdles, most notably when Robert nearly consummated his affair with housemaid Jane. These moments of weakness are fleeting, however, as Robert reminds himself how much he loves and respects his wife. Through Cora’s generosity and understanding nature, Robert is often reminded that nothing is more important than family. You simply can’t have Downton Abbey without the Earl and Countess of Grantham.
#4: WORST: Ethel Parks & Major Charles Bryant
You could say that Ethel is a modern woman who wants more out of life, but you could also say that she’s an ungrateful brat who believes service work is below her. When the wounded Charles Bryant is being treated at Downton, Ethel irresponsibly shacks up with him. Ethel should’ve heeded Mrs. Hughes’ warnings, as her fling with Charles results in a pregnancy. To make matters worse, Charles turns out to be a scoundrel who refuses to take responsibility for their baby and is killed in action shortly after abandoning Ethel. While we come to empathize with Ethel as she struggles to support herself and her son, she serves as a cautionary tale for anyone who rushes into a relationship with someone they barely know.
#4: BEST: Charles Carson & Elsie Hughes
Despite not being together for a majority of the series, Carson and Hughes have always acted as the paternal figures of Downton’s staff. As the years go by, it becomes progressively evident that this butler and head housekeeper are in love with each other. Since both have been married to their jobs for so long, though, they keep matters professional. Yet, you’d swear these two were already married when they hold hands on the beach at the end of Series 4. It takes another year for Carson to finally confront his feelings, proposing to Hughes as if they had been dating for years. Hughes accepts without giving it a second thought, showing that it’s never too late to find love.
#3: WORST: Lady Edith Crawley & Anthony Strallan
Sure, Edith and Strallan are far from the most toxic couple on the show. While some took issue with the age gap, their love seemed genuine and we were glad to see Edith in good spirits for a change. Then their wedding day arrived. At the altar, Anthony tells Edith that she’d be squandering her life by staying with him and he walks away. It’s debatable whether or not these two would’ve been happy in the long run, but Anthony really should’ve brought this to Edith’s attention earlier… like literally any time before the ceremony! Even if their relationship wasn’t without its moments, the public humiliation Anthony subjects Edith to puts a sour taste in our mouths whenever we look back on their time together.
#3: BEST: Lady Sybil Crawley & Tom Branson
The youngest Crawley daughter was also the most modern, embracing everything from the changing fashion to forward-thinking political movements. Above all else, Sybil knows that wealth and social status aren’t what defines a person’s worth. She immediately looks past Tom’s chauffeur uniform to see a noble man willing to fight for what he believes. Tom, meanwhile, couldn’t give two cents about Sybil’s money, falling in love with her passion and devotion. Of course, most of the other Crawleys aren’t so open-minded, with Robert initially condemning the relationship. Knowing that nothing can keep them apart, however, he eventually comes to accept the union. Their love story is nevertheless one that ends in tragedy, but it takes a truly heartfelt romance to make an audience feel such heartbreak.
#2: WORST: Lady Mary Crawley & Richard Carlisle
It’s easy to hate Richard purely on the basis that he’s the main obstacle preventing Mary and Matthew from living happily ever after. Even if you took Matthew of the equation, Richard is a jealous, entitled, and calculating louse. This becomes increasingly apparent to Mary throughout their courtship, but she’s forced to stay with Richard out of fear that he may reveal her part in the Kemal Pamuk scandal. Richard only grows more possessive when Mary’s feelings for Matthew come to light, threatening to ruin the Crawleys if she doesn’t fall in line. Before parting ways for good, Richard tells Mary that he loved her. There’s a big difference between loving someone, though, and wanting to basically own them.
#2: BEST: John & Anna Bates
When John Bates arrives at Downton, the world has turned its back on him due to the injuries he sustained during the Boer War. Bates’ cane doesn’t faze Anna, who sees him for the kindly gentlemen he is. It’s impossible not to be smitten with these two from the second they meet and especially after Bates bring an ill Anna flowers. Despite being two of the gentlest souls at Downton, a storybook ending doesn’t come easily to them. Between John’s incarceration and the atrocities Anna experiences at the hands of Mr. Green, their relationship is constantly put through the wringer. Mr. and Mrs. Bates always find their way back to each other, however, culminating with the birth of their son.
#1: WORST: John & Vera Bates
The first major trial John and Anna must endure together is the arrival of Vera, John’s estranged wife. After John’s mother passes away, Vera tracks him down in order to sink her claws into her inheritance. All John wants is the freedom to wed Anna, but Vera refuses to let him be happy. She not only denies him a divorce, but also threatens to reveal Mary’s secret if John doesn’t stay with her. When John finally fights back, Vera does everything in her power to make sure he remains miserable. This ultimately drives her to consume poison, staging her suicide to look like a murder committed by John. Resentful, cunning, and just plain vile, Vera spreads nothing but hate with every breath she takes.
Before we get top out best couple, here are a few honorable mentions:
Lady Mary Crawley & Henry Talbot
Lady Edith Crawley & Herbert Pelham
Rose & Atticus Aldridge
Rose Aldridge & Jack Ross
Isobel & Richard ‘Dickie’ Grey
#1: BEST: Matthew & Mary Crawley
In a show overflowing with will-they-or-won’t-they tension, no couple left us on edge like Mary and Matthew, the Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy of their generation. These two are meant for each other, but they get off on the wrong foot. Even as they grow closer, bad timing, social class, and other love interests continually drive them apart. Once they finally start being honest about their feelings, Matthew pops the question to Mary in one of the most beautiful proposals we’ve ever seen on television. This couple’s happiness peaks with the birth of their son, which is immediately followed by Matthew’s fateful car accident. After Matthew’s death, “Downton Abbey” was never the same, demonstrating why his relationship with Mary was the heart of the show.